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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, August 16, 2013

$6.3 Million Morgue Proposed in NorCo

After listening to a detailed report about exactly what Coroner Zachary Lysek is planning last night, I nearly ended up being his next customer. As he discussed "gross storage," tissue samples, the noxious odor emitted by a dead body, autopsies, assistants getting sprayed by bodily fluids, and some 16-slice body scanner, I very nearly hurled all over Judge Antonia Grifo's white designer eyewear.

But Executive John Stoffa was lovin' it.

"Tell 'em what you do with the bodies," Stoffa prodded Lysek at one point.

And Zach did, discussing coolers scattered here and there where he can pull open a drawer and stow someone or say "Hi!" to someone else. He has to juggle them around among St. Luke's two campuses, Easton Hospital and Gracedale. When one of these places has a rush, he juggles some more.

Zach was at County Council last night to pitch a $6.4 million, 24,000 sq ft morgue. It will be conveniently located at Louise Moore Park, where I like to spend a lot of time. It's based on a study done by Allentown's W2A. "We need to do a better job, and this will enable us to do it," states Lysek.

I'm never heard a single complaint from any of his customers.

For as long as I can remember, the County has been talking about building a real morgue. Something else has always had priority. But the Coroner's pressures have skyrocketed. Lysek investigated 1,917 deaths last year, compared to just 782 in 2000.

Business is booming.

With a real morgue, the juggling problem would be eliminated. There's 22 coolers, with room for more. It will also include a full body X-ray, a 16-slice scanner [don't ask me what the hell this is] and this is when Zach began discussing internal organs and paraffin.

- That's when I left the room briefly.

When I got back, Zach was pointing at a generator at the proposed building. "I don't have to tell you what will happen if we lose power."

- I checked out again. After blowing into a paper bag, I returned.

"... and at this new facility, we'll have lockers for when bodily fluids begin spraying all over our clothing."

- Out again. I was tempted to take off, but I am a bottom-feeding blogger, damn it. If I can handle cRaZy Mezzacappa and Gregory, I can put up with this.

"... and I don't mean to be disrespectful, but you can't possibly imagine how bad a decomposing body smells."

- Out again. I waited until Zach sat down.

What kills me is I am the only person in that frickin' room who was bothered. Antonia and Frank Flisser's wife were unfazed. That bastard Stoffa was smiling. Bethlehem Press reporter Carole Smith told me she watches CSI, so this is nothing.

I'm still a little queasy.

Believe it or not, some Council members then began asking questions! Bob Werner suggested teaming up with a hospital and Zach began talking about using NCC students take X-Rays as part of their classes. Tom Dietrich claimed there's differences between autopsies at a hospital and in a morgue. How the Hell does he know? What is he, a frickin' vampire?

Scott Parsons was a bit miffed about the pricetag.

"Did I miss something in the last 15 years that nothing got done here?" he asked, complaining about the never-ending expenses of running a County in his 1 1/2 years on Council.

President John Cusick, who has been there a bit longer, pointed out that "if your priority is building industrial parks, a core function like this gets ignored."

"Embarrassing," was Ken Kraft's one-word assessment.

His face was as green as mine, and he's not Irish.

Whatever happens, it won't be done by Stoffa.  He has 8 Council meetings left, and said a morgue will have to wait for the next Executive, suggesting it be floated as part of the next bridge bond in about 3-4 years.


Anonymous said...

This is so funny...congrats!

Anonymous said...

More money out the door. Please CC just say no!

Anonymous said...

they could name the morgue after stoffa - he's been dead for years

Anonymous said...

John was proposing parking garages for county employees when the morgue was going ignored. I voted twice for John. But I knew he was a bit of a fiscal schizophrenic, typical of a career government employee. He was the best we could do - an extraordinarily ethical guy who's not going to split the atom anytime soon. This should have been prioritized over a centralized human services building. And then there's the money we're needlessly wasting on a nursing home operation that would be better performed by others. John tried to do the right thing there and gets to say "I told you so." But he won't.

Also, your prose in this post has me in tears. Very Eugene O'Neillesque. You're really hitting on all cylinders lately. It's time for your book, Bernie.

Anonymous said...

While it sounds like a morgue may be needed, it's a hard sell at any time. People don't like the thought of dead bodies, storage, autopsies, etc. Nobody likes discussing the reasons for a morgue and most of all, it isn't a visible improvement that the public sees for their money. You'll have a better chance at getting re-elected cutting a ribbon for a repaired bridge than giving the public a tour of a new morgue.

I'm not advocating for or against it. Part of me is tired of money endlessly being spent on money pits (Gracedale). Part of me knows that at some point spending has to be done on items we are obligated to maintain, or may need in the future.

I'm also wary of the price tag. I've yet to see anything built without cost overruns. Also, those looking for a new "something" seem to want the best toys to put in it.

Since they may kick this can down the road for 3-4 years, that time should be used to investigate grants or possible Federal aid. The time should also be used to find out if some of the toys requested, such as the Suzie Homemaker slicer and dicer, or the See The Mummy full body x-ray, is really necessary to perform an autopsy. NorCo seems to succeeding in performing them without them.

Anonymous said...

Bernie....love Your site ,being A paramedic and having dealt with this situation over the years..this truly will be money well spent..imagine have You would feel if someone that You knew would end up with someone elses arm or worse..cant have that now not to mention all the other problems a coroner has to deal with...and by the way anytime Yu like I would be willing to let You spenad a shift with Me get You toughened up a bit...LMAO...keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Rather than selling the Bechtel Building at 520 East Broad, why not convert it to a morgue? Size is just right and location is good.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's a good question. It might actually be too large. The location might not be ideal. I'm not sure whether this institutional use would be permitted. It probably has been considered, and discounted, but I will try to find out.

Anonymous said...

Why? it is not zoned for a Morgue and that alone will take forever. also you can not re-design Becthel into a morgue. first problem is the multiple floors. second is the location, third is the City Zoning and the list goes on and on

Anonymous said...

The best thing about this is, neither this county council nor this Admisntration will act on this before they are goner.

Amen, now I can release the death grip in my wallet just a bit.